Psychotherapy Perspectives

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Notion of Change

By Margy Davis-Mintun, LCSW


Through the years I’ve been intrigued with the idea of change and growth and how that process actually takes place. I recall being at an in-service back in the days when I worked in health care and learning that children don’t grow in small continuous increments, rather they can grow an inch or a quarter of an inch in a 24 hour period of time. That idea seemed strange to me, and challenged my concept of growth as a very slow continuous process.

As I turn to examine change in terms of human behavior, what strikes me in my work, is that the process of awakening to change is rather slow, as we gain new insights, new ideas, new ways of understanding ourselves and our stories. However the actual moment of change seems to be rather radical and instant, when our entire body/mind/spirit transforms and a new reality is embodied!

Have you ever noticed that you have believed or experienced something in life a particular way and then one day, that old way of being/thinking has just vanished and has been replaced with a new perspective?

An example I can use in my life, is that I used to feel/believe that I was responsible for making sure that everything in my life “worked”. I used to think that if I were not on top of all matters, my life would fall apart, and what would follow is that I would somehow lose my sense of purpose and meaning. This is quite ridiculous, of course, but nevertheless this was a fundamental belief that guided many of my choices and most of my interpretations. It seems like I “worked” in my own psychotherapy on this for an extensive period of time. Cognitively and intellectually I realize that of course these ideas were filled with flaws and that my grandiosity was beyond the scope of truth. Still, I held on to these notions and guarded them for “dear life”, they were for me defining, and I wasn’t about to give them up. These beliefs allowed me to think of myself as sacrificing and to hold noble meaning in my life.

Of course to maintain this story, I had to push aside the awareness of my helplessness, of my limitations and of my vulnerability. Some how, life did not feel safe enough to allow for my fraility, at least not for me to openly recognize it.

Yet one day, when I woke up to the diagnosis of cancer, all that I held in my belief system fell apart. I had to face the falsehood of my story, that somehow I in my arrogant and/or childlike way I held the notion of having so much more control than I ever actually had. In a moment I realized that a belief system integral to my self concept was in fact false, not only false because my intellect understood that to be so, but false because my being knew that to be true.
It was at this point that I began to understand in a “felt” sense, that change is not so much a process, but rather a momentary shift in the way we think, a shift that allows for new beliefs to create new embodied experiences in a magnificently irreversible manner. This was the equivalent of the twenty four hour growth spurt of our childhood body
This experience led me to continue to explore the relationship between our beliefs and our experience, particularly related to the shift that allows us to become free to embrace something new in our life view.

When in the process of psychotherapy, we sometimes wonder if things will ever change, the journey can seem long and winding. We are often preoccupied with the “desert” of our problems, beliefs and limitations. Then suddenly we shift and unexpectedly change happens, we see the “oasis” in the desert! Like the child growing an inch overnight, a shift in our world/personal view. To me, this is what a Notion of Change is all about!

More to come…………………………..

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